The electrician field has weathered decades of ups and downs, including the Great Depression and the 2007 recession. For workers in search of a skilled trade, a career as an electrician may offer higher than average wages. As of May 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the national mean wage for electricians was $52,910, while the national mean wage for all occupations was $45,230 (bls.gov, OES).
In addition, the profession is expected to create up to 133, 700 new jobs from 2010 to 2020, nationally and have a faster-than-average growth rate of 23 percent (bls.gov, OOH). The BLS attributes part to the advent of alternative power generation, which could create demand for alternative energy contractors who can link wind energy and residential solar power to the electrical grid.
Here are three big reasons electricians are coming up green.
Alternative Power Production
Though many licensed electricians may still handle familiar jobs such as wiring houses and public buildings, new green technologies may offer a growing range of opportunities for electricians to take on alternative energy projects. Energy manufacturers and utility companies such as Muth Electric and GE Energy have begun to embrace wind and solar energy as viable alternatives to coal, gas and nuclear power, as reported in a 2009 Electrical Wholesaling article.
While solar farms in residential areas might be on the unfeasible side, according to SolarPowerRocks.com, houses with solar arrays can provide 200 watts of power per panel which can be used by the house or fed back into the grid -- if a green electrician has set up a home for a grid-tie-in. Grid-tie-ins allow residential solar power to be fed into the power grid, with utility companies paying homeowners for the power they produce. These solar panel tie-in systems may even "pay" for the solar installation in as little time as a year.
Wind energy has the potential to create "hundreds of thousands of jobs for electricians and electrical contractors" Jim Johnson, senior mechanical engineer for the National Wind Technology Center, told Electrical Wholesaling. Wind systems can be constructed in a number of days and generate up to 100 kilowatts of power per station. Wind energy contractors and electricians may be needed to construct and maintain wind turbines, as well as wire their power into the grid. And, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, new offshore wind farms have the potential to create up to 200,000 jobs in construction, operation and electrical manufacturing.
Smart Power Consumption
Along with alternative power generation, green electrical contractors may also be responsible for installing and maintaining energy saving devices such as smart power outlets that automatically cut vampire power (power that appliances draw even while off), and smart power meters that can track a home's power consumption and help homeowners save energy. These energy saving devices could save a household up to 10 percent of their total power consumption according to CNET and may be needed not only in new homes currently being built but also in older homes with archaic power networks.
Additionally, residential and industrial clients have come to expect modern conveniences such as touch screens and wireless controls for climate control systems as well as little things such as modern lighting. According to the National Lighting Bureau (nlb.org, 2009), more than 2 million buildings in the U.S. were in need of new lighting systems and modern controls as of 2007. New jobs for lighting and climate control upgrades may be available for journeymen and master green electricians who can stay up to speed on the latest power-generation products and energy saving gadgets.
Green Electrical Construction
Aspiring alternative energy contractors may be able to get their foot in the door of green energy by getting in on the ground floor of green electrical projects. The electrical trade can't be taught straight from a textbook (bls.gov, OOH). On-site experience and instruction are crucial for turning apprentice electricians into journeymen and master energy contractors -- and helping to prevent the do-it-yourselfers from frying their fingers.
An infographic by the U.S. Department of Energy (energy.gov) states that 70 new clean energy job projects were announced in April, May, and June 2012 alone, which could pave the way for over 37,000 new jobs. Furthermore, the DOE reports that the clean energy economy is expected to generate upwards of $1.9 trillion in revenue by 2018 based on findings from Pew Charitable Trust.
Whether you're just getting into the electrician business or are a 20-year vet, it's never too late to learn some new tricks. So crack open that NEC handbook, seek out some alternative energy projects, and plug into a network of other hard workers who love to learn.
You can learn more about the technical side of electrician training and careers on TechSchool.com by clicking here
About the Author
Ben Thomas writes about electrician schools and careers and college degree programs, among other career fields, for the Riley Guide.
Electricians, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2011, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes472111.htm
All Occupations, May 2011 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, United States, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm#00-0000
Electricians, Occupational Outlook Handbook (2012-13 Edition), Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/construction-and-extraction/electricians.htm
"Winds of Change," Electrical Wholesaling, April 1, 2009, Amy Florence Fischbach, http://ewweb.com/gogreen/electric_winds_change_3/
"How much electricity does a solar panel produce?" July 11, 2012, Adele Peters, http://solarpowerrocks.com/solar-basics/how-much-electricity-does-a-solar-panel-produce/
"Energy Department Announces New Investments in Pioneering U.S. Offshore Wind Projects," U.S. Department of Energy, December 12, 2012, http://energy.gov/articles/energy-department-announces-new-investments-pioneering-us-offshore-wind-projects
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"2 Million-Plus U.S. Buildings Are Lighting-System Upgrade Candidates, NLB Says," September 17, 2009, http://www.nlb.org/index.cfm?pn=2&&pid=10237
"From Emerging to Mainstream: The Growth of the Global Clean Energy Marketplace," U.S. Department of Energy, January 17, 2013, Erin R. Pierce, http://energy.gov/articles/emerging-mainstream-growth-global-clean-energy-marketplace
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